NSSAFFL: Judges, Griffins to kick off Scotia Division playoffs Friday

The opening game of the Scotia Division playoffs will involve two teams that just met one week ago in the last week of the regular season.

Top seeded JL Ilsley Judges and fourth seeded Horton Griffins will kick off the Scotia Division Tier 2 playoffs under Friday Night Lights at Burnside Turf. Kickoff is 7:00pm.

Judges head coach Steve Saunders expects it to be another great, competitive, yet entertaining game.

“If the game is played as it was last week, it should be another great one as both teams played their best especially on the offensive side,” comments Saunders.  “They (Horton) have an outstanding offense unit right now and we have to move bodies around to solve some issues.”

While the Griffins may not have home field advantage in the semi-final game, head coach Alec Hyndman says that the team is unfazed by it.

“Playing on the road is tough, but we are 4-0 on the road outscoring them 140-24,” explains Hyndman.  “So we don’t mind playing away from home.”

The Judges have a young defensive unit which have turned in a solid performance in the regular season.  However, Saunders believes there will be two factors that will influence the outcome of the game on Friday.

“We have six grade 10’s starting on defense and they have stepped up their game every week but found out after last week, there is still a lot to learn,” assesses the Judges head coach.  “I think special teams will be the difference if it is close.”

“Whoever makes the most mistakes will not advance.”

As for the Griffins, they come into the semi-final game armed with previous playoff experience.  Last year, the team were Tier 1 finalists and knows what it takes to be successful in their quest to win the Tier 2 championship title.

“What we will be looking for is the same thing we got last year when we went to the Tier 1,” adds the Griffins head coach.  “We need someone to step up, not one of our main studs, but someone who has yet to step up.”

“We have been focusing the boys on this fact. Studs don’t win championships, teams do, and it takes 12 guys playing hard and doing their jobs, not relying on their teammates to make those big plays, but being hungry enough to make them themselves.”


2012 Record:  7-1-0 in the regular season (first place)

Coaching Staff:

Head Coach:  Steve Saunders (5th season, but is in his 20th season coaching)

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH:  Eric Bowdridge (defensive end), Lucas Hill (wide receiver), Joe Stuckless (running back/special teams), Andray Brady (receiver), Ben LeBlanc (quarterback), Tristan Oliver (linebacker), Skylar LeBlanc (defensive back), Cody Smith (offensive lineman), Falon Hodge (defensive back)


2012 Record:  5-3-0 in regular season (fourth place)

Coaching Staff:

Head Coach:  Alec Hyndman (sixth season)

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH:  Cam Davidson (running back), Jake Melanson (defensive end/wide receiver), Brandon Whitman (defensive back/receiver), Duncan Hill (linebacker), Kyle McMullin (quarterback), Zack Gouthro (running back), Mike Boylan (receiver) Diego Oliveira (kicker), Brock O’Brien (offensive lineman), Nathan Walsh (defensive back)

PREVIOUS 2012 MEETING: In Wolfville, JL Ilsley Judges capped off a surprisingly tremendous regular season campaign as they squeaked by the Horton Griffins 36-33 in Week 9.

“Our matchup with Horton was a big game with a lot of implications and it lived up to its bill as it was one of the most entertaining games I have seen in a long time,” commented Judges head coach Steve Saunders after the win.  “The offense on both sides produced some great plays as the QBs and receivers really put on a show.”

After the first quarter, the Judges enjoyed a 16-0 lead.  However, the Griffins rallied to take over the lead 18-16 at the half.

Judges wide receivers Andray Brady and Nathan Robinson led the scoring punch with two majors a piece.  Running back/kicker Joe Stuckless capped off a breakout regular season with 121 rushing yards on 16 carries, 1 touchdown and was successful on six conversion attempts. Quarterback Ben LeBlanc had 13 completions in 17 attempts for 257 passing yards.

In his postgame assessment, Saunders said he was impressed with how LeBlanc rebounded from a rough outing one week earlier. Even though the Judges defense had some difficulty, there were a couple of key performances.

“Ben had a poor night the week before against JH Gillis and for a Grade 10 kid to come back and play with the way he did really boosted the team,” assessed the Judges head coach.  “Our defense didn’t really shine with the exception of defensive end Eric Bowdridge and linebacker Tristen Oliver who came through when we needed it as Eric’s interception with 25 seconds to go changed the playoff map as Horton was in field goal range just inside our 30.”

“It was another game that could have gone either way so our semi with them this week should be a heart stopper.”

Meanwhile, the Griffins offensive unit played a strong game in spite of the loss.  Overall, the team amassed 249 rushing yards.  Cam Davidson (141 rushing yards on 18 carries) and Zach Gouthro (108 rushing yards on 18 carries) each scored a touchdown.  Quarterback Kyle McMullin had 19 completions in 32 attempts for 215 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

“It was an exciting game, back and forth the whole time,” said Griffins head coach Alec Hyndman after the loss.  “Both teams came to play; we just didn’t end up on top.”

“They did some things that we didn’t expect, and think we did the same to them.”

Defensively, the Griffins had problems against the Judges.

“It was the first time I watched our defense get burned deep three plus times,” reflected the Griffins head coach.  “It was something we prided ourselves on; not giving up the big play.”

With a rematch on the horizon once again in the semi-finals, Hyndman has faith the team can rebound and succeed against the Judges due to the motivation of the Griffins.

“We get another shot at JL in the first round, and I know the boys are going to be hungry for redemption,” commented Hyndman.  “If we can sure up our holes, and exploit some of the things we learned, we feel good that the end result this time around will be in our favour, but we know it’s going to be a hard fought game, and we won’t be taking it easy this week in practices.”

“Of the boys I spoke to over the weekend, they are all pumped to get back to practice and work hard to get to the championship game.”

Having playoff experience will be a huge confidence booster and advantage for the Griffins going into the playoffs.

“Playoffs are a new season,” explained Hyndman.  “We are going to build off the nine guys that played in the Tier 1 championship last year and look for them to lead us to this year’s championship.”

(twitter: http://twitter.com/vohra_ameeta)



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